With a shared record label home at RCA and a stable of R&B hits between them, Grammy winning veteran Anthony Hamilton and “American Idol” turned fellow Grammy winner Fantasia brought their co-headlining tour to the Arie Crown Theater. Not only did the first show sell out, but demand proved so great that the pair will be back to the very same venue on Wednesday, June 1 after visiting various theatres and arenas across America (including the mecca of them all Madison Sqaure Garden).
Outside of focusing on their own projects, both artists separately addressed Prince’s sudden passing two days prior, though neither really scratched the itch surely felt by so many in their presence.
Though the pair is flip-flopping positions depending on the date, Fantasia kicked off the initial Chicago engagement blending choice covers, previous originals and previews from her fifth album “The Definition Of…” After entering through the side aisle, one of Fantasia’s earliest selections was Whitney Houston’s new jack swinger “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” the first of several diva tributes that ranged from the Tina Turner-inspired rock n’ roller “Proud Mary” to the jazzy Broadway standard “Summertime.”
The charismatic entertainer also flexed her mighty pipes on relatable originals such as “I’m Doin’ Me,” “Lose To Win” and “No Time For It,” all accompanied by some raw and incredibly down to earth testimonies of longing for the right kind of love, shedding the drama and clinging to an impervious faith. While Fantasia flew through glamorous outfit changes, dance steps and frequent forays into the crowd, this Patti LaBelle in training was actually at her strongest vocally when simply sitting on a stool alongside her background singers for a medley of rarely performed ballads.
On the flipside, she turned totally over the top for the screamer finale “Sleeping With The One I Love,” an acquired taste interpretation for sure, but one that left faithful applauding for more as she confidently exited through the audience. Considering Fantasia’s virtual ability to start up a fire, Anthony Hamilton’s set appeared anticlimactic given his more subdued blend of smooth soul and R&B ballads from the past (“Best Of Me,” “Diamond In The Rough”), right up through the new album “What I’m Feelin’” and its current single “Amen.”
The singer/songwriter was also facing a leg injury, often times using a crutch to move around the stage, though it would’ve been less distracting and most certainly understood had he just stayed put and sung his heart out like he did during the gospel-infused “Still.” Hamilton also made a strong social statement against violence in the taped introduction to “Soul’s On Fire,” which also gave his band a chance to heat up with some serious rock n’ soul riffs that weren’t really rivaled the rest of the night.
Outside of focusing on their own projects, both artists separately addressed Prince’s sudden passing two days prior, though neither really scratched the itch surely felt by so many in their presence. Fantasia followed up her comments with snippets from his protégés (Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl,” The Time’s “The Bird”), while Hamilton and his crew merely sang a few lines of Prince’s immortal “Adore” before quickly calling it a day (despite earning a bigger roar than any of his own material).
Had the pair collaborated on literally any of Prince’s songs in their entirety, it would’ve surely torn the house down, and at the very least, they could’ve sung something together like so many other co-headliners. At least there’s time to work the kinks out before the pair swings through town for the second time, which along with a switch in the order, should give greater satisfaction from a bill otherwise filled with two artists whose ever-expanding popularity is undeniable.
For a list of upcoming shows at the Arie Crown Theater, visit ArieCrown.com.